Most of you perusing golf sites on a weekday in September know the story of Francis Ouimet, the young amateur whose victory in the 1913 U.S. Open is widely considered the single event most responsible for igniting the golf boom in the United States.
Today, Sept. 20, is the 100th anniversary of Ouimet's triumph – and if you just did a double-take, that's perfectly understandable. But it's true – the 1913 U.S. Open was originally scheduled for June, but the U.S. Golf Association pushed it back to late September to make it possible for prominent British champions Harry Vardon and Ted Ray – widely considered the world's best two golfers at the time – to come over and play.
Ouimet, age 20, wasn't even planning to play the U.S. Open. He had just played the U.S. Amateur – which was bigger than the U.S. Open at that time – losing in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Jerome Travers. Ouimet had missed a lot of work to play the Amateur, but USGA President Robert Watson beseeched him to participate in the Open, and he eventually relented.
The 1913 U.S. Open, as we all know, was played at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., the course Ouimet knew better than any other. So, despite this being Ouimet's first U.S. Open start, he finished 72 holes tied with Ray (the 1912 British Open winner) and Vardon (a five-time British Open winner who also had won the 1900 U.S. Open). Ouimet, of course, won the playoff – beating Vardon by five and Ray by six – in front of a throng of 10,000 supporters, an upset that made headlines in both Great Britain and the United States and helped catapult golf into the sports mainstream in the United States.
Ouimet went on to win the 1914 U.S. Amateur, and played for or captained the U.S. Walker Cup team 12 times. He ran a sporting goods store, was a vice president of the Boston Braves and president of the Boston Bruins, and was elected the first American captain of the R&A in 1951. More important, however, some of his friends established the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund in 1949, and it has distributed more than $26.5 million in college tuition aid to more than 5,100 students who have worked as caddies or in pro shops or course superintendent operations in Massachusetts.
To celebrate the big occasion this afternoon, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the life-size statue of Ouimet and Eddie Lowery at the Robert T. Lynch Golf Course at Putterham Meadows in Brookline. Lowery, we remember, was the 10-year-old caddie who carried Ouimet's bag for all 90 holes and became Ouimet's lifelong friend. The ceremony will feature Ouimet's great grand-daughter Caitlin Wallerce and Lowery's daughter Cynthia Wilcox, along with Ouimet Scholarship recipients and students from the City of Boston’s Franklin Park & George Wright Caddie Scholars Program.
PGA.com ran a great story on Ouimet's victory and its repercussions during the U.S. Open this summer, and you can read it here .